Critique Groups: Yes, No, Or Something In Between

Critique Groups: Yes, No, Or Something In Between
by Elaine Cantrell

My first critique group was made up of some excellent writers. I admired their work so much! (Still do.) The leader of the group was a multi-published author whose work was published by one of the major houses in New York. No doubt about it, she was tough on us.

One work they critiqued for me was a novel set slightly in the future. They thought I had too many references to futuristic technology and told me I should take that out because it detracted from the story.

Okay. I respected the group so I changed the novel. I struck all the futuristic references that weren’t absolutely essential.

I had the same work critiqued by another author who was on the New York Times best seller list. What to guess what she said? She said where are the futuristic elements?

I thought a lot about critique groups after I spoke to that author, and I think I’ve learned some things. First, I learned that sometimes other people can see flaws in your work that you can’t see simply because you are too familiar with it. Sometimes these errors are purely mechanical, an unnecessary comma or something of that nature. But sometimes they catch major booboos that you didn’t know you made.

Second, I learned that if everyone has the same criticism of a certain passage, you’d do well to listen. If everyone says the same thing, evaluate the disputed passage and see if you agree with them or not.

Third, I learned that sometimes people have very different ideas about what makes a work better.

Fourth, belonging to a critique group can keep you focused. It can also provide social interaction with other people who are interested in the same things I am.

Finally, I learned that in the end I have to trust myself too. I now see that it’s impossible to please everyone, and I should sometimes do what I think is best. I don’t want to have a technically perfect work whose heart has been edited right out of it. In addition, I’m the only one who understands who I want my characters to be. One lady once wanted me to change a scene and rewrite it so that my hero was angry because he had to stop by the grocery store for his mother. In real life he may have been, but in my book he was a good guy who didn’t mind doing favors for his mother.

Now about that futuristic novel… I need some of those futuristic details. I can’t tell the story as well without them so some of them are going back in. However, I intend to be discriminating about what I put back. It probably would be easy to overwhelm the story if I have too much detail. Did I make the right decision about those details? Time will tell.

The graphic is from


  1. Perhaps those elements had to be taken out first, so they could be put back correctly ;)

  2. true! one of the most frustrating/helpful/crazy things about writing - is the feedback process - so you are right to trust your own instinct - my gut instinct works like this - if i agree that the feedback would make it better i go with it - if not then i don't - different isn't necessarily better - just different. ;) cheers! jojo


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